Ark Therapeutics Group has agreed to spin out its non-core discovery stage leads and related know-how for eye diseases to newborn company Eyecopharm AG, set up in Hamburg, Germany, by Professor Heinrich Schulte, also founder of Evotec AG.

The company is handing over application rights to its intellectual property for its targets in eye disease in return for a 9% equity in the German group and a single-digit royalty on future sales of any products derived from the agreement. In addition, Ark will represent at least one seat on Eyecopharm’s board, it said.

Ark’s vascular endothelial growth factor-based preclinical research programmes have produced small peptides which have shown significant effects in reducing angiogenesis on the retina in established models recognised to be predictive for human disease, the firm says. And, according to Prof Schulte, “these molecules are showing early signs of high potential. Having access to Ark’s scientific expertise and business experience is also a large benefit to us in moving Eyecopharm forwards.”

Initial target AMD

Eyecopharm will conduct all preclinical and clinical work and will find any future development, while Ark will provide scientific advice and may perform contracted research services for the group. According to the company, Eyecopharm’s initial clinical target will be wet age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly which results from an overgrowth of small blood vessels on the retina.

Explaining the deal’s benefit to Ark, its chief executive, Nigel Parker, said: “Our early discoveries in this area will now get the focus, momentum and necessary expert input needed to take them through into clinical development in this very specialised sector of medicine. “

“Ark will remain flexible to entering arrangements like this so that our shareholders can benefit from the value of our discoveries outside our core areas of expertise.”